This week at the station

This week at Davis: 14 March 2014

Nick's cartoon of the week

Cartoon drawing of a large icy hill following a few trekkers
We now know where Stalker Hill got its name
(Photo: Nick Cartwright)


Just to be clear from the start, I don't 'do' science. There are too many Bunsen burners and funny shaped bottles to injure yourself on for my liking. I think the closest I came to science once was owning a microscope set when I was a kid. Unfortunately, this just resulted in the 'cleansing' of every type of invertebrate unlucky enough to set foot on our garden path. Not that I've got anything against science either - far from it - I'm just not an academic person so didn't make it past remembering all the bits that make up the periodic table without thinking they were scrabble pieces.

If, however, somebody sends out an email asking for volunteers to assist with some science work out in the field, I will happily shout "Pick me!" whilst waving two arms in the air - any excuse to get out of the office. That's why we're in Antarctica right?

The plan was to travel on foot to a collection of lakes all within a few hours walking distance of Watts hut. Initially we were going to be there for five days and were to take small samples of each of the lakes, bring them back to station and then Sarah and Alyce would put on white coats and rubber gloves and interrogate the bits of extrapolated lakes in a dark room until they gave the girls the answers they wanted. My function in all this was to make up the numbers for search and rescue purposes, carry some cheese and crackers to the hut, and be the scapegoat for any card games so that neither of them would feel that they had lost.

We had a bit of snow the morning we set off. The snow was quite greasy underfoot so we decided to wear micro spikes over our boots. Falling over in itself isn't so bad, but when it's on boulders and with a twenty kilogram pack to help you towards the floor it's no time to be taking risks. The walk in was great - some great scenery and the fresh snow gave it that proper Antarctic feel that we hadn't had for a while.

Now here's the funny bit, the bit where everyone in the normal world will give us a raised eyebrow: we turned up at the first lake on the list and it was frozen. Now the intelligent amongst you would be sitting there saying,"Yep, you're in Antarctica, of course it's frozen" but this hasn't been the case for the past few months. It was only a few weeks ago that most of these lakes would have been in liquid form, so we were actually quite surprised by this. I know, scientists huh? A quick review of our situation and the map dictated that given the first lake was frozen, a great number of the other freshwater lakes would likely be in a similar state so we got to the hut for the evening with a plan to only visit the saline lakes the next day as their freezing temperature is far lower than freshwater.

On day two we had better luck as the collection of lakes to the South of Watts hut were still unfrozen and proved willing enough to give up part of themselves in the name of science. Now I must mention that Sarah and Alyce had different handwritten numbers marking each of the lakes on the map. I asked what these were for and it turned out that this was to signify each lake's importance. I was quite upset to hear that some lakes were more important than others so I made sure the lakes didn't find out, and that they didn't get to see the map as they could have developed insecurity issues.

I have no idea about the equipment the girls used to sample the lakes but one of the syringes looked like it could be used to vaccinate a horse. During the sample taking I ate sandwiches, sat on rocks, took pictures and told the lakes that they were all equally important and that they were doing a great job, just in case the girls let loose their opinion on them.

That night was another night at Watts hut. I drank tea and abstained from joining in with knitting. As such I was then forced into a card game that I'd never played so that the lake stabbers could beat me at something. Having been bullied enough, I went outside to take some time lapse photography of an Aurora which didn't appear. Oh well.

We walked back to Davis station the next day due to running out of non-frozen lakes to sample. We did vow to return next time though with an ice drilling kit, a greater supply of cheese and biscuits, a Monopoly board (I'm good at Monopoly) and a range of gifts for the lakes to make them all feel special.

Stuart Shaw, Supervising Communications Technical Officer

two expeditioners looking out over a frozen lake
Scientists Alyce and Sarah
(Photo: Stu Shaw)
Two expeditioners standing on a high point looking out over an icy valley
It's all frozen!
(Photo: Stu Shaw)
two expeditioners walking over snow and boulders
A long and challenging walk in
(Photo: Stu Shaw)
two expeditioners close to an unfrozen lake
Alyce and Sarah find a suitable lake to sample
(Photo: Stu Shaw)
two expeditioners sitting on a rock on the end of a lake
Sarah and Alyce taking water samples
(Photo: Stu Shaw)
expeditioner standing at the end of a lake, plenty of snow cover around the hills
Stu on the edge of Oblong Lake
(Photo: Alyce Hancock)
large lake showing mirror image of snow capped hills
Oblong Lake
(Photo: Alyce Hancock)
Black and white photo of expeditioner sitting on his pack with his GoPro brand camera
Stu with his GoPro
(Photo: Alyce Hancock)

In the field

More fabulous photos taken during the science (water sampling) trip last weekend.

Reflection of Stu in the window at Watts hut
Stu's selfie with a difference
(Photo: Stu Shaw)
Evening photo of Watt's hut with inside lights on
Ahhh the serenity
(Photo: Stu Shaw)
Evening photo of Watts hut with what appears to be 2 ghostly figures outside the hut
Ghosts at Watts hut. Can you see them?
(Photo: Stu Shaw)
Close up self-photo of an expeditioner wearing googles
Stu's selfie
(Photo: Stu Shaw)
Scenic photo of the Vestfold Hills under snow
The Vestfolds
(Photo: Stu Shaw)

The big kitchen clean-up

Any large kitchen with three chefs catering for up to 90 people on station during the busy summer months will always require a major clean. With this as one of our major focuses, the team decided last week was the perfect time to do such a job.

All equipment, appliances, cooking materials (you name it, we’re talking EVERYTHING) were removed before Paul, Alyce, Lesley, Adam, Nick, Val, Webby and Josh commenced scrubbing, degreasing, wiping and polishing. The before and after photos provide a good indication on how well the team did. Now we’re afraid to use the kitchen and undo all the hard work.

Chef looking angry in the kitchen
A photo of Lesley before the kitchen clean
(Photo: Narelle Campbell)
group of trades people in the the kitchen cleaning
The big kitchen clean
(Photo: Stu Shaw)
tradesman on a broom sweeping water down a drain
Webby helping out in the big kitchen clean
(Photo: Stu Shaw)
Tradesman cleaning the kitchen floors with a steam cleaner a
Paul steam cleaning the floors
(Photo: Paul Stringer)
photo of grime and grease in the kitchen
(Photo: Paul Stringer)
photo of a very clean kitchen wall and floor
(Photo: Paul Stringer)
a very happy looking Chef in the kitchen
Chef Lesley after the kitchen clean
(Photo: Narelle Campbell)

On the job

Our focus this week has been on the big kitchen clean up, servicing vehicles and plant equipment, releasing more weather balloons and recording data, general maintenance and watching Dom kick major goals in the green store as he works his way through the aisles, shelf by shelf. He continues to make numerous interesting discoveries of items of old as he pulls out dusty crates.

One of the yearly maintenance tasks is to inspect the Digisonde and MFSA antennas, always on a calm day. One of the photos below shows Dave preparing to climb the 30 m Digisonde tower, not in the photo is communications officer Rob who was there to assist. Shortly after Dave’s work was completed, the comms team (Rob and Stu) inspected the comms tower outside the operations building. Stu was the rescue climber and Rob was the primary climber.

From Team Dieso - Blue Hägglunds returns to service

This week has seen the return to service of the K-8 BV206E Hägglunds, better known on station as the Blue Hägg. She has been awaiting parts, namely a turbo intercooler, to effect repairs.

Some time ago on a trip across the sea ice (when we had sea ice) she developed an irritating noise that progressed into an impatient, tea kettle type whistle that could not be ignored.

After some diagnostic investigation the culprit was found to be the turbo intercooler leaking past the rubber core seals. Once identified, the task of removing the cooler was undertaken which required three very strong short people with elongated arms that had uni joints in place of elbows. Luckily, this happens to be a uncanny description of the Dieso team at Davis!

The cooler was replaced, tested and returned to service in no time at all.

Expeditioner with safety gear on standing alongside loarge antenna
Dave preparing to inspect one of the antennas
(Photo: David Correll)
Expeditioner with safety gear on climbing an antenna
Rob inspecting one of the communications antennas, Stu looking on
(Photo: David Correll)
Expeditioner coming down from an antenna
Rob descending from the communications antenna, Stu looking on
(Photo: David Correll)
Two expeditioners dressed to climb an antenna with harnesses and hard hats
Stu and Rob, job successfully completed
(Photo: David Correll)
Expeditioner inside his workshop
PJ the meteorology technician in his workshop
(Photo: Narelle Campbell)
An expeditioner in her office in the meteorology building
Ali, the senior meteorological observer
(Photo: Narelle Campbell)
Expeditioner in the station warehouse
Dom, station supply officer
(Photo: Narelle Campbell)
Expeditioner in the station warehouse searching for items
Dom looking for what he's looking for
(Photo: Narelle Campbell)
Expeditioner looking for spare parts in the warehouse
Plumber Val searching for parts in the green store
(Photo: Narelle Campbell)
Large over snow Antarctic track vehicle
Our 'Blue Hägg'
(Photo: Mark Johnson)
Photo of a turbo intercooler
Route problem
(Photo: Mark Johnson)
Black engine part
'The Troublemaker'
(Photo: Mark Johnson)


It’s always good to have our neighbours drop by for a visit. Unfortunately, this time our friends from Progress Station (Russian) couldn’t stay for long as they had numerous other tasks they needed to complete with their helicopter whilst the sun was still shining. Our friends decided it was the perfect day to fly to Davis and return a 1000 L water tank they borrowed during summer. A quick landing, a handshake accompanied with numerous thanks, and they were off on their merry way - great entertainment for the big machine lovers here at Davis.

Large helicopter high above slingloading a large plastic container
Russian helicopter returning a 1000L water container
(Photo: Narelle Campbell)
Helicopter about to place the large water container on the heli pad
Returning a borrowed water container
(Photo: David Correll)
Helicopter places water container on the heli pad
The water container touches down
(Photo: David Correll)
Large helicopter lands on the heli pad
Russian helicopter lands
(Photo: Narelle Campbell)


There’s always plenty to do when we’re not working – barbecues, games of volleyball in the sports stadium (helicopter hangar) and of course, looking after our personal needs.

Lesley (chef and deputy station leader) is an experienced hairdresser having completed a three hour introductory hairdressing course back in Hobart and she doesn’t mind a challenge! Layla has full faith in Lesley’s new skills. The result? Perfecto!

Expeditioner placing foils on another expeditioners hair
Hairdresser Lesley with client Layla
(Photo: Narelle Campbell)
Two expeditioners cooking a BBQ outside on the balcony
BBQ on the verandah during the big kitchen clean-up
(Photo: Stu Shaw)
Close-up photo of expeditioner
Dom at the big kitchen clean-up BBQ
(Photo: Stu Shaw)
Group of expeditioners playing volleyball
Volleyball game in the sports stadium (helicopter hangar)
(Photo: Paul Stringer)
Three expeditioners on the opposite of the net ready to return the volleyball
Ali, Sarah and Dave defending
(Photo: Stu Shaw)
Expeditioners playing volleyball in the heli hanger
Game on with Josh and Dave as Layla and Ali look on
(Photo: Stu Shaw)
Expeditioners sitting around a table on the verandah, bay in the background
Friday night drinks on the sunny verandah
(Photo: David Correll)

Wildlife and scenery

The sights, sounds and smells from Davis station.

Snow blowing over an ice edge into the water
Blowing snow
(Photo: Narelle Campbell)
Group of elephant seals huddled together on the beach, icebergs in the background
Elephant seals on the beach
(Photo: Narelle Campbell)
Black and white photo of the bay taken from station
Our view from station
(Photo: Narelle Campbell)
Bright reds and orange sunset over the bay
Another stunning sunset at Davis
(Photo: Layla Watson)
Group of elephant seals huddled together on the beach
Elephant seals on the beach
(Photo: David Correll)
Close up of two elephant seals challenging each other through playful fighting
Play time
(Photo: David Correll)